Visual artist Matthew Moore's parents recently sold off part of their Phoenix-area farm to a developer. The land, as this image shows, is part of only about three square miles of agricultural land left near the ever-encroaching expansion of the city of Surprise, AZ.
Using aesthetic means to illustrate the transition in land use, Moore got hold of the blueprints for the development going in on the family's former property. He created an exacting 1/3-scale replica of the 250-home community, using sorghum plantings to represent houses and black-bearded wheat to stand in for asphalt driveways and roads. The project is called Rotations, a nod to rotational farming practices whereby crops are moved from season to season to repair and replenish soil. Only his piece is dubbed "the final rotation"—houses planted in even rows, never again to be moved.
While Moore says seeing the land change is like "watching a sinking ship," he insists the piece is not protest art. "If I’m against development, then I’m a hypocrite,” he says. “As farmers we created the model for this type of growth. We came here, ripped apart the native desert landscape, and continually tried to increase our yield per acreage. It’s essentially the business model for any suburban development.”
Here's how the project developed:
September 2005: Taking up about 35 acres of farm land, the site features homes made of planted sorghum and roads of wheat.
December 2005: "My wife and I had seeded the roads in wheat in late November. This is the first image after the emergence of the wheat. The Sorghum had been killed by a frost, and was in danger of blowing away at this point."
June 2006: "The wheat had started to end it growing cycle and the sorghum had come back fuller than the previous year. The two homes in the background are my parents, and grandparents homes, to give some context."